My brother, and my other brother

Today's story takes place a few years ago, in 2018. I'd been mostly estranged from my immediate family for years, but several of them were vacationing nearby, specifically to see me and my wife. It wasn't my idea, but Stephanie and I had agreed to it. 

I was looking forward to seeing my family, sure, but Steph was almost giddy with anticipation. She'd asked me to re-brief her on everybody and everything, and peppered me with questions. These were people she’d heard about for decades, but most of them she hadn't met, and she very much wanted to make a good impression.

Our visitors from out-of-town:

• My mother
• My oldest brother, Dick
• My next-oldest brother, Clay
• Dick's wife, Young-sook
• Clay's wife, Karen

Our first day with the family was, honestly, nice. They were strange, except for Karen, because that's who they are, but there'd been no yelling, no fisticuffs, and only minimal Jesus-talk. The day had been a smashing success, I thought.

Winding down and saying good night, we all decided to meet for breakfast the next morning. Stephanie & I were the only locals, so my mother asked us to recommend our favorite place for breakfast.

Well, you know the answer to that. Steph & I loved breakfast at Bob's Diner, and we'd very much recommend it — to you, but Steph was hesitant to recommend it to them. "I'm not sure about this," she whispered to me, and instead she suggested we all meet at Perkins the next morning. That's a chain eatery, like Denny's or IHOP.

On our drive home, Stephanie told me why she hadn't suggested Bob's Diner: We'd all had lunch at a fast-food place that day, and Dick had been somewhat rambunctious, and Clay had amplified it. They'd ended up arm-wrestling between the hamburgers at our tables. Dick won, and Clay demanded a rematch.

I should mention, none of us were teenagers. Far from it. We were all in our 60s and our mother was almost 90. Their loudness and arm-wresting had been so normal for Dick and Clay, though, that I'd barely noticed — but Steph noticed.

And there'd been grace. I think it's silly, but nobody objects if you thank the Lord before a meal, and at the fast-food place, Mom's 30-second prayer over our burgers was not an issue. What struck Steph as abnormal was that after the prayer, Clay and Dick and Karen had all said, "Amen," and "Praise the Lord," and such variations. Dick's "Praise the Lord" had been loud enough that people stared, and then he'd said it a second time, louder.

Steph & I had also been bewildered by Dick's wife, Young-sook. I'd never met her until that day, and she'd been instantly obnoxious. Sorry, why sugar-coat it? She repeatedly interrupted conversations to say nonsense, and she had a bizarre habit of putting her fingers into other people's food. She'd fingered both Steph's lunch and mine. When we'd (politely!) objected, her feelings had been hurt, and she took her burger and sat at a different table, away from the rest of us. Something is not right with that woman.

All the above is why Stephanie had hesitated, and suggested Perkins. In the car on the way home, she said, "No offense, I just don't think we should set your family loose at Bob's Diner."

When you're right, Steph, you're right, and she was right. The next morning, she wasn't feeling well, but she insisted that I go to breakfast without her, so I met Clay and Dick, Young-sook and Karen, and my mom, at Perkins. Here's what happened:

Dick changed his mind several times about what he was ordering while he was ordering, and he was loud, abrupt, and almost aggressive with the waitress. He sternly demanded very little ice in his soda, saying, "Very little ice" three times, slowly, in a tone of voice you’d use with a habitually disobedient child.

His soda came without much ice, but it was too much ice for Dick, and he spent a few minutes complaining about "Too much ice, why do they always give me too much ice?" — loudly enough that everyone heard, staff and customers, in a restaurant he'd never been to before.

"You know," I said, "this kind of crap is why you haven't seen me in twenty years."

He then took a handful of ice from his drink, and announced that he was going to drop it on the carpet. He would have, and Young-sook shouted, "Ice! Ice!" like she thought this was great fun. But Karen and I, along with a perplexed busboy, convinced Dick to put his "too much ice" on an empty plate, instead of on the floor.

After that, our group was well-behaved albeit uncomfortably loud. Clay said he'd pay, and we could all settle up afterwards. I left ten bucks tip for my $11 meal, as an apology, because Dick must've been their worst customer of the morning. 

We didn't see the family again until the next day, and when we huddled to split the tab from Perkins, my other brother — not Dick, who'd complained about the ice, but Clay, who's usually more level-headed and reasonable — poked fun at me for tipping. And I realized, I was the only person who'd left a gratuity.

We'd been a shitty party of six at Perkins. Our table had been too loud, Dick had been out of line, and we'd tipped just $10 on a $75 ticket. Three years later, I'd still like to apologize for my brother, and my other brother. If it had to happen, though, I'm glad it happened at Perkins, instead of at Bob's Diner, where Steph & I ate every week.

I thanked her again, for being so smart. She'd instinctively known, under the circumstances, that the right answer to "What's your favorite place for breakfast?" was to lie. 



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  1. >She'd fingered both Steph's lunch and mine. When we'd (politely!) objected, her feelings had been hurt, and she took her burger and sat at a different table, away from the rest of us. Something is not right with that woman.

    Jesus fucking Christ. Lunatic.

    1. Yup. Exactly. She's kooky enough to deserve an article of her own, but I don't really know a damn thing about her except that she's a lunatic.

  2. Steph's thought process re breakfast reminds me of both Shawna and Virginia, and is why you and I both were / are better off having these women in our lives. We're both smart, but they have a different way of analyzing things, and see the BLATANTLY OBVIOUS flaws in our plans.

    1. Perfectly said, yessir. And I can think of *no* examples of the reverse, where there was something she didn't see, but I did.

  3. Your family is a mess. Was she trying to take your lunch?

    1. No, she never tries to eat your food, she just ... wants to feel it, I guess. Insanity is hard to explain.


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